|Motivational, keynote, and workshop audience want the same thing, a speaker with a story they can enjoy and share with others. As a keynote and motivational speaker, I have found that telling a fantastic story is one of the best forms of messaging. One of my favorites is a true story about a catastrophic disaster experienced by NASA that cost the lives of three astronauts. I tell this story and many others in The Right Stuff – Integrity, book number six in my twelve-part Business Quick Reads series.
Let me share with you a glimpse into my own spin on how a failure of integrity nearly ended the American Space program.
America’s NASA Space Program in the 1960s was of necessity grounded in technical and physical integrity. And that integrity was tested by the events of January 27, 1967. Apollo 1 was running through a launch rehearsal at the NASA complex at Cape Kennedy. The mission was planned to launch on February 21, 1967, and would be the first flight of the Apollo Program, which would eventually land the first men on the Moon. Command Pilot Gus Grissom, Senior Pilot Ed White, and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee were selected to man the mission. These three men were considered the “Best of the Best” after some of the most intensive selection, conditioning, and training that mankind has ever devised. Yet on that day, the integrity of NASA failed.
It was a failure of engineering and of manufacturing, some poorly constructed electrical system resulting in a fire caused by a spark—a catalyst that ignited the high pressure, pure oxygen atmosphere of the cabin. With no means of escape designed into their space capsule—no emergency evacuation or fire suppression system—it became a death trap. And to top it off, nobody thought pressurized, pure oxygen was a risky idea.
On July 20, 1969, some 30 months after the Apollo 1 fire that took the life of all three of its crew members, a new chapter for mankind was being written. This time it was Apollo 11’s turn, and Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin traveled 238,900 miles to the Moon. Armstrong and Aldrin landed the lunar module Eagle. Armstrong’s first words upon stepping on the surface were, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” NASA had met the challenge, and in the process they restored their integrity.
It could be argued that without the Apollo 1 fire, NASA might never have made it to the Moon. Integrity is a very precious and perishable thing, and like a great love it requires constant passion.
Wes Berry is a Keynote Speaker and Workshop facilitator with the professional skills and real-life experience to deliver on any stage. He is a TEDx Speaker and a Wall Street Journal best-selling author; he has written sixteen books in the business and success genres. As an entrepreneur, he built a $750 million international company that operated in 130 countries. Wes has even done some standup comedy as well as radio and television.